Mary Beth Tinker

Mary Beth Tinker and her brother John proudly display their armbands after the Supreme Court agreed to hear their case. Tinker and many of her classmates were suspended from school for wearing the armbands. They appealled to the Supreme Court, and won a major free speech victory in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District case.

Editor’s note: Joey Stipek is a former Daily online editor and special projects reporter.

A woman who at age 13 changed First Amendment law for students in a 1969 Supreme Court case will stop at campus on Thursday as part of a national tour.

Mary Beth Tinker will stop at OU for a series of events promoting First Amendment rights starting at 1:30 p.m. in Gaylord Hall. 

In 1965, Tinker was part of a small group of students in Des Moines, Iowa who wore black armbands to school to mourn the dead in the Vietnam War and call for a Christmas truce. After being suspended for their actions, the students won a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1969, which said that neither students nor teachers should be stripped of their First Amendment rights at school, according to the Tinker Tour website.

On a tour organized by the Student Press Law Center, Tinker began traveling to schools across the country in fall 2013 to remind students of their First Amendment rights, according to the website.

OU journalism professor Robert Kerr organized the Tinker Tour to visit campus and has been talking about Tinker in his Mass Communication Law class for the past 12 years, he said.

“The fact that someone so young — Tinker was just 13 when the case began — could have played such a role in changing the course of history is truly a remarkable thing,” Kerr said.

Joey Stipek, president of OU’s Society of Professional Journalists, said he thinks the Tinker Tour is important for students to attend to see the value of the First Amendment for students and for journalists.

“She has definitely inspired me in some of my efforts at OU,” Stipek said.  

Tinker will also discuss freedom of information laws, which give citizens access to public information, in a session with OU's Society of Professional Journalists at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in The Daily newsroom, Stipek said.

At the event, Mike Hiestand, Student Press Law Center attorney, will work with those in attendance to give information about what the government does and how they can enrich their reporting through open records, Stipek said.

Madeline Stebbins, journalism senior, said she is looking forward to hearing Tinker talk about the current state of student First Amendment rights.

“There have been a lot of cases since hers and some of them have restricted First Amendment rights for students. A lot of people don't realize that by attending school we give up some of our basic constitutional rights, at least while we're on campus,” Stebbins said.

Caitlin Schachter is an online journalism sophomore who is a copy editor. Caitlin has worked as a news repoter for The Daily her previous three semesters. This is her fourth semester at The Daily.

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